The 2018 Asia Cup – Preview

The 14th Asia Cup gets underway on Saturday 15th September, in Dubai – a tournament that brings together six Asian sides for the third most prestigious 50-over tournament on the international calendar. It promises to be a closely fought and entertaining tournament!

Above: The 2018 Asia Cup is unveiled in Abu Dhabi

Format

The five ICC full members from the region – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – are joined for the two-week event by Hong Kong, who prevailed from a qualifier event held earlier in the month in Malaysia.

Depsite Hong Kong not currently holding ODI status, the ICC confirmed on Sunday that all games in the tournament will be official ODIs. Incidentally, this is the third time Hong Kong will have been granted temporary ODI status for their appearance in the Asia Cup – the same thing happened in 2004 and 2008.

All games will be played at the Dubai Sports City stadium and the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Above: The Dubai Sports City and Sheikh Zayed stadiums where the tournament will be held.

The first round of the tournament is played in two groups of three on a single round-robin basis, each team playing the others in their group once. In Group A, qualifiers Hong Kong face the big two of India and Pakistan, while Group B consists of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The top two teams from each group then qualify for a “Super Four” second stage, where all teams play again in a single round-robin format. Results from the first stage do not carry over. The top two from the Super Four qualify for the Final in Dubai on the 28th September.

History

This is the 14th Asia Cup. The first event was also held in the UAE in 1984, although exclusively at Sharjah rather than in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where this event will be held.

India are the most successful Asia Cup team, having won the event six times. Sri Lanka have been crowned Asian champions five times and Pakistan twice. Bangladesh best finish is as runners-up, while Afghanistan are playing in only their second Asia Cup tournament. Even Hong Kong have appeared more than that, having previously featured in the 2004 and 2008 edition.

India are also reigning Asia Cup champions, having won the 2016 competition which was held as a T20I format for the first time. Sri Lanka won the last tournament held in the 50-over format in 2014.

Form and rankings

India will no doubt be favourites again, being the top ranked ODI side in the tournament at 2nd. They will however be without talismanic captain Virat Kohli who is being rested for the tournament, and are coming off an ODI series defeat to England. Prior to that defeat they had thrashed South Africa 5-1 and beat Sri Lanka 2-1.

Pakistan, ranked 5th, will also fancy their chances, being reigning ICC Champions Trophy champions. Since that memorable tournament win, when they beat arch-rivals India in the final, their ODI form has been rather topsy-turvy – blanking Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe 5-0 either side of a 5-0 defeat to New Zealand. They are also playing in “home” conditions, having been largely based in the UAE since 2009.

Bangladesh are ranked 7th in ODIs, and it is arguably their favourite format. They recently beat the West Indies, but prior to that lost to Sri Lanka in the final of their home tri-series also featuring Zimbabwe.

Sri Lanka are ranked 8th , and have also had indifferent form in ODIs of late. They won their last two games against South Africa having already lost the series, but won the Bangladesh tri-series and lost to India.

Afghanistan are ranked 10th. Their last outing was a 2-1 series win over fellow new full member Ireland, and prior to that they won a World Cup Qualifier tournament in Zimbabwe that they were a hair’s breadth away from crashing out of at an early stage. Afghanistan have remarkably not played an ODI against an Asian full member side since 2016, so the tournament represents a rare opportunity to test themselves at this level.

Hong Kong famously lost their ODI status at the World Cup Qualifier in March, so don’t have an official ODI ranking. They recovered from a shock first game defeat to Malaysia in the qualifying tournament, but prevailed against ODI status teams Nepal and the UAE to qualify, and will relish their return to the big stage. led by 20 year-old skipper Anshuman Rath (pictured below).

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Stats and Milestones

There are plenty of stats and milestones to keep an eye out for as the tournament unfolds:

Pakistan have played 894 ODIs in their history. If the make it all the way, the final will be their 900th ODI!

Afghanistan have played 170 matches with full international status, winning 99 of them – so they need one more to bring up their century.

Upul Tharanga (Sri Lanka)  – Opener Tharanga has scored 6.873 ODI runs, needing 127 in the tournament to bring up 7,000.

Rohit Sharma (India) – Stand-in Indian skipper Rohit is also bearing down on the 7,000 mark, having notched up 6,748 in ODIs in his career to date. A mere 252 will get him across the line.

Mushiqur Rahim (Bangladesh) – The Tigers’ keeper is in line for milestones with both bat and gloves. With the willow he needs 172 runs to notch up 5,000 in ODIs, while he will be looking for 7 dismissals behind the stumps to reach 200 in the 50-over format for his country.

Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka) – having been recalled for this tournament, Malinga is in sight of two milestones. He is the Asia Cup’s second highest wicket-taker with 28 victims in the tournament’s history. Only fellow Sri Lankan Murali has more on 30, so three wickets will see Lasith take the crown.

Overall he has taken 492 wickets across all formats for Sri Lanka, so needs just more for a massive 500.

Babar Azam (Pakistan) – Pakistan’s top order batsman needs 27 runs to bring up 2,000 in ODIs.

Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh) – Veteran opener Tamim needs 61 runs to bring up 12,000 across all formats, becoming the first Bangladesh batsman to do so.

Afghanistan v Bangladesh – T20I Series preview

In  two weeks Afghanistan will follow Ireland into the ranks of Test playing nations, when they make their bow in the prestigious format against India in Bengalaru. Ahead of that much anticipated game, the Afghans last assignment as a non-Test team will be a three match Twenty20 International series against Bangladesh, which gets underway on Sunday 3rd June.

All three games, with the second and third matches taking place on Tuesday and Thursday, are being held in Afghanistan’s defacto home in India. These will be the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Dehardun’s first ever internationals having opened in December 2016. It will become the 51st stadium in India to host official international games.

Above: The Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Dehardun makes its debut international appearance in the series.

The series also marks the first bilateral engagement between the two countires. In fact, they have only ever met once before in a Twenty20 International – Bangladesh running out the winners in a first round game at the 2014 World Twenty20 tournament in Dhaka.

As well as “home” advantage, form in the shortest format would also appear to be on Afghanistan’s side heading into the series. They have won two of their last three series – in Sharjah against Zimbabwe in February this year and against Ireland at Greater Noida in India last year. Sandwiched between those wins was a 3-0 series loss to the West Indies in the Caribbean.

For their part, Bangladesh lost to India in the final of their most recent tournament – the Nidahas Twenty20 Tri-Series held in Sri Lanka – and have in fact only won four of their last twenty T20 Internationals. That poor form sees them ranked a lowly tenth in the format, compared to Afghanistan’s eighth.

So a keenly fought series awaits. There are a few significant milestones in reach for players of both sides:

Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)

The Tigers’ captain Shakib is ranked third in the world for T20I all-rounders, and is in sight of a very significant all-round record in this series.

Sitting on 498 international wickets across all formats, he needs just two to bring up 500. If he does, he will join a very exclusive club of just two other players (Shahid Afridi of Pakistan and South Africa legend Jacques Kallis) to notch up both 10,000 international runs and 500 wickets.

Shakib will also be playing his 300th International for Bangladesh across formats in the first game.

Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh)

By strange coincidence, Bangladesh’s opening batsman is also playing his 300th international in the first game -although not all of his have come wearing the green cap/helmet of Bangladesh, having also played a number of times in the last twelve months for the ICC World XI. Indeed he played for the ICC representative side earlier this week as a teammate of Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan who he now lines up against.

For both teams he has scored a total of 1,442 Twenty20 International career runs, so will be looking for just 58 ore to bring up 1,500.

Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)

It’s hard to believe legspinner Rashid Khan is still a teenager, such has been his impact in international cricket since he made his Afghanistan debut as a 16-year old in 2015. Sought after the world over in franchise cricket, Khan has taken 149 international wickets for Afghanistan and the ICC World XI combined, and 49 in Twenty20s – so needs just one more to bring up the 150 / 50 respectively.

Mohammad Shahzad (Afghanistan)

The Afghans’ flamboyant keeper-batsman will be looking to make big strides up the rankings of international Twenty20 cricket’s all time run-scorers.

His 1816 career runs in the format currently have him in eighth place in the world, but 74 runs in the series will see him rocket up to fourth – leaving South African JP Duminy (7th on 1822), India’s Rohit Sharma (6th, 1852), Shoaib Malik of Pakistan (5th, 1887) and Sri Lankan Tilakaratne Dilshan (4th, 1889) in his wake.

Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan)

Allrounder Nabi can make similar moves up the bowling charts. His 61 T20I wickets are enough for 10th place worldwide currently, but six more scalps in Dehardun will see him march up to sixth.

New Zealand’s Tim Southee (9th, 62 wickets), Englishman Stuart Broad (8th, 65) and the Sri Lankan pair Ajantha Mendis and Nuwan Kulasekara (Joint 6th, 66) are the men in his sights.

Sabbir Rahman (Bangladesh)

Currently having 893, batsman Sabbir needs 107 runs to become the fourth Bangladeshi (after Shakib, Tamin and Mushfiqur Rahim) to bring up 1,000 Twebty20 international runs.

Potential Debutants

There are two uncapped players in the Afghanistan squad who may make their Twenty20 debuts if chosen – Harzat Zazai and Darwish Rasool could become the 39th and 40th men to represent their country in the shortest format.

2018 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier

The Road to Lord’s in 2019 swings through southern Africa this week, when the 2018 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament gets underway in Zimbabwe on Sunday morning. Ten countries, four Test nations and six Associates, will do battle for the right to participate in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales.

For many cricket fans, the tournament is a bittersweet one.  A festival of cricket such as this should fill the heart with joy, being that a bounty of 50-over cricket is coming our way over the next three weeks. Yet, it is tainted by controversy, and not a little sadness, from the outset due to the machinations of the sport’s “governing” body, the ICC.

Whilst every other sport in the world is looking to expand and develop interest in more markets, the ICC have infamously decided to head in the opposite direction, driven by greed and TV ratings rather than any genuine love of the sport. Instead of expanding the game’s showcase global event to include more Associate nations, the ICC has decided to all but deny them entry to it at all.

The 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup has been slashed to feature just ten teams, down from 14 in the 2011 & 2015 tournaments, and 16 in the 2007 edition. Eight teams have already been guaranteed a place in England next year, leaving the four lowest ranked Full Members and the Associates to scrap for just two remaining qualifying berths. So, for the first time at least two Full Members will not be participating in the World Cup, and it is entirely feasible that no Associate nation will make it all.

That is a crying shame, for the Associates have long been starved of quality opposition against the stronger nations, and the CWC has for many years been the one event where they were afforded that opportunity. That it is taken from them at a time when Associate level cricket is going from strength to strength makes the decision all the more baffling and shameful.

The ICC has granted the two leading Associates of recent years, Ireland and Afghanistan, Full Member status this year, the game is hugely popular in Nepal, whilst Scotland and the Netherlands to name just two have been putting some solid results together on the field and making significant strides to develop infrastructure off it. The time was ripe to really drive growth in these countries, yet all of them could well be looking on from the outside come next year while the bigger teams play a ludicrous 48 games between them over six weeks!

The ICC has also baffling decided not to grant ODI status to two of the teams participating in this month’s tournament, Nepal and the Netherlands, so games featuring those two nations will carry less weight statistically for the teams and their players. Why not simply grant the same ODI status to all games in the tournament, what harm would have ensued? Couple with the again strange decision to not televise or even stream the vast majority of the games, and you start to get the distinct impression that the ICC would prefer that the whole thing wasn’t happening at all!

Ignoring all of that (and I’ll leave my ranting there!) the tournament promises to be an exciting one, with every game counting, some big names of the sport appearing, and the small matter of the ultimate prizes of ICC Cricket World Cup qualification and ODI status at the end.

The format of the tournament is short and sweet compared to the main event it precedes, taking place over just three weeks with as many as four games taking place simultaneously on some days.

The ten teams are divided into two groups of five, each playing the other teams in their group once. The top three sides from each group qualify for the second stage, known as the Super Six. Here, teams’ results against their fellow qualifiers from their group are carried forward from the first round, and the teams play the qualifiers from the other group once each. At the end of this second group, the top two sides qualify for the final and, more importantly, for the 2019 World Cup.

The bottom two sides from each of the two initial groups face play-offs against each other to determine who finishes in seventh to tenth places – these games being of vital importance as the ICC is due to grant ODI status to the top three finishing Associates (plus the Netherlands) for the next four years after the tournament finishes.

So each nation is guaranteed a minimum of six games each, rising to seven for those that qualify for the Super Six, and eight for the finalists.

I preview each group below, as well as marking your cards for some upcoming personal milestones that may be reached as the tournament progresses!

Group A

Group A matches are to be played in the capital Harare, at the Harare Sports Club and the Old Hararians club.

 

West Indies

The Windies arrive at the tournament as one of the joint favourites, being as they are a Full member and with the best pedigree of all ten participating nations. That a twice-World Cup winning side (and current T20 world champion) finds itself needing to qualify at all is a result of some terrible ODI form in the last few years and an impasse with key players that has seen some of the Caribbean’s best cricketers overlooked or self-exiled from selection. They failed to qualify for last year’s Champions Trophy in England, and will be desperate not to miss out in the same country again next year.

They are buoyed for this tournament by the return of several big names to the fold, including self-styled “Universe Boss” Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and quick bowler Kemar Roach.

Some personal milestones to look out for the Windies:

Kemar Roach – Fast bowler Roach needs just one wicket to bring up 100 in ODIs

Jason Holder – the skipper needs nine more wickets to bring up his century in the format.

Marlon Samuels – if the West indies progress all the way to the final, and Samuels plays all eight games along the way, he will move on to 200 ODI appearances.

Ireland

As a then Associate nation, Ireland qualified for the last three World Cups going back to 2007, famously inflicting some of the biggest upsets the tournament has ever seen in the process – beating Pakistan in 2007 and England in 2011. Now a newly-installed Full Member, and with a first Test match taking place in May, the men in green will be highly driven to keep their fine record going and qualify for the big show in neighbouring England.

Recent results have not been as strong, and with an ageing (although highly experienced) squad, one senses qualification may be a battle, but they certainly will not give up on that coveted spot without a fight.

A few key personal marks to watch out for:

Kevin O’Brien – the hero of that famous win against England in 2011 needs just 88 runs to bring up 3,000 in ODIS for Ireland

Niall O’Brien – Kevin’s brother Niall will notch up 100 appearances in ODIs if Ireland qualify for the Super Six, he plays in all games, and Nepal don’t qualify for the Super Six from Group B (because Netherlands and Nepal don’t have ODI status.)

The Netherlands

By virtue of winning the World Cricket League Championship in 2017, the Netherlands have been granted ODI status, commencing after this tournament, and will also participate in the inaugural ICC ODI league alongside the 12 Full members when it kicks off in 2020, guaranteeing them regular games against higher ranked sides.

So exciting times lie ahead for the Dutch, regardless of what happens in Zimbabwe, but nonetheless they will be keen to qualify for the World Cup for the fifth time and first since 2011.

Their squad has been bolstered by the return of several plays playing top-class cricket overseas such as captain Peter Borren, Essex’s County Championship winning captain Ryan ten Doeschate and Roloef van der Merwe.

Papua New Guinea

The Barramundis will be looking to qualify for their first major tournament. A more realistic target might be to hold on to their ODI status by finishing as one of the top 3 associate nations. Form against fellow associates has not been strong of late finishing fourth in the WCL in 2017, being on the wrong side of a bilateral series defeat to Scotland, as well as losing both warm ups in Zimbabwe over the last week, so they will look to improve in the next three weeks.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE secured their spot in the Qualifier by winning the recent WCL Division 2 tournament in Namibia, beating fellow qualifier Nepal in the final. Their main aim in this tournament will be to keep hold of their current ODI status for another four years.

One personal milestone that may be realised comes in the form of Shaiman Anwar, who needs 182 runs to become the first UAE player to notch up 1,000 ODI runs.

Group B

Group B matches take place at in Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo at the Queens Sports Club and the Bulawayo Athletic Club.

Zimbabwe

Being a Full member and with the benefit of home advantage, the Zimbabweans will be one of the teams favoured by some to take a coveted qualifying spot for England. Graeme Cremer’s men have had a mixed time of late – winning a bilateral series in Sri Lanka in 2017 but losing against Afghanistan and failing to make it to the final of the Bangladesh tri-series also featuring Sri Lanka.

Their ranks have been bolstered this year by the return from Kolpak stints in England of star keeper-batsman Brendan Taylor and quick bowler Kyle Jarvis, and they will hope that experience and the improved form of Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza will be enough to get them to the final.

A few personal marks that are in play in the tournament:

Sean Williams – recalled to the squad for the tournament, batting all rounder Williams needs just 53 runs to bring up 3,000 in ODIs

Craig Ervine – batsman Ervine needs just nine runs to notch up 2,000.

Hamilton Masakadza – the big opener needs just three ODI appearances to move from sixth place in his country’s appearance list to fourth, passing Alistair Campbell and coach Heath Streak in the process

Afghanistan

It is a sign of their remarkable progress over recent years that Afghanistan are likely favourites for the tournament, having also attained Full Member status in 2017 and looking forward to a maiden Test against India in June.

They have had mixed form in fairness, winning an ODI series against Zimbabwe and drawing in the West Indies in the last 12 months, alongside a series defeat to Ireland in the UAE in late 2017. But they are buoyed by the presence of a phalanx of young and hugely impressive spin bowlers that are more than a match for anyone on their day, especially in Zimbabwe’s likely spin-friendly conditions.

Keep a special eye on the mercurial Rashid Khan

Afghanistan’s vice-captain will, at just 19 years of age, likely become the youngest captain in international cricket history when he deputises for usual skipper Ashgar Stanizkai (out with appendicitis) in the opener against Scotland. Nothing should surprise anyone from Khan, who sits proudly atop the ICC’s ODI and T20I bowler rankings and is courted by franchises the world over, such has been his meteoric rise over the last two years.

Khan also needs just 14 wickets to bring up 100 in ODIs – few would bet against him getting them.

Mohammad Nabi and Dawlat Zadran – fellow bowlers Nabi and Dawlat need 5 and 10 wickets respectively to bring up their 100s too.

Scotland

In the last 12 months, Scotland notched up a bilateral ODI victory over a Full member for the first time, beating Group B rival Zimbabwe in Edinburgh in June 2017. That result and coming second in the WCL to the Netherlands will fill them with confidence that they can at least qualify for the Super Six stage of this tournament – but having appeared in three of the last five ICC world cups, they will be hoping for more.

Kyle Coetzer – already his country’s highest ever ODI-scoring batsman, skipper Coetzer will be looking to add the 277 runs he needs to bring up 2000 for Scotland in ODIs.

Hong Kong

Deprived of top players not available for this tournament, such as JJ Atkinson and Mark Chapman, the latter having opted to now play for New Zealand, Hong Kong’s chief aim will be to emerge with their ODI status intact so they can continue to progress at the highest associate level.

Nepal

One of the fastest upcoming nations in Associate cricket, Nepal secured their berth at this qualifier by finishing second in the WCL Division 2 tournament in Namibia earlier this year.  With huge support at home in the Himalayan nation, obtaining ODI status will be their main goal from this tournament, and with superstar Sandeep Lamichhane, recently awarded an IPL contract, in their ranks few would bet against them causing an upset or two.

West Indies v Afghanistan – ODI Series Review

The West Indies and Afghanistan recently concluded their bilateral ODI series, with honours being shared 1-1 after the third and deciding game at the Darren Sammy stadium in Gros Islet was washed out by the St Lucia rains.

 

The series represented a strong comeback for the associate nation Afghanistan after they were soundly beaten 3-0 in the T20I series earlier in the month.

A few personal milestones of note:

Rashid Khan

The star of the series was undoubtedly the 18-year old whizzkid. His 7/18 in the first ODI now stands as the best bowling figures by an Associate bowler and the fourth best of all time by any bowler in the 3,890 ODIs played to date!

His 10 wickets in the two games played took him to 63 overall for his country, and already into third place in the overall Afghan wicket standings, shooting past Hamid Hassan’s 56.

 

Mohammad Nabi and Dawlat Zadran

Dawlat’s two wickets in the first ODI briefly drew him level with Mohammad Nabi as the Afghans’ all time leading wicket taker with both sitting on 84 wickets.

All rounder Nabi reasserted his lead at the top in the second game however, when Rovman Powell became his 85th victim.

West Indies v Afghanistan- June 2017 ODI Series Preview

Fresh from their clean sweep in the Twenty20 International series held earlier this month in St Kitts & Nevis, (see review here) the West Indies now host Afghanistan for three One-Dayers at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Ground in Gros Islet, St Lucia.

Whilst the Windies are reigning T20 world champions, their ODI status is far less impressive – currently ranked 9th in the world. They therefore missed out on qualification for the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy in the UK. Afghanistan sit just one place behind in 10th, comfortably the highest ranking Associate nation.

An intriguing series awaits, and thanks to a great initiative from the rebranded West Indies national board, you can watch it live and for free on the Cricket West Indies website (here).

From an individual player perspective, keep an eye on the following as they approach personal milestones:

Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan)

Already Afghanistan’s leading run-scorer, wicket-taker, and appearance-maker in ODI cricket, all-rounder Mohammad Nabi needs just 98 runs in the series to become the first Afghani player to notch up 2000 runs in one day internationals.

Rahmat Shah (Afghanistan)

23-year old fellow all-rounder Rahmat Shah comes into the series in great form having scored an unbeaten century in Afghanistan’s most recent ODI against Ireland at their Greater Noida base in India in March.

He currently has 847 career runs from his 27 ODI appearances, requiring 153 to bring up his 1000.

Dawlat Zadran (Afghanistan)

Quick bowler Dawlat sits just two wickets behind Mohammad Nabi in second place in Afghanistan’s all-time ODI wicket-takers list, with 82 scalps to his name so far. It’s a shoot-out between the two of them for top spot!

Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)

The 18-year old wunderkind spin bowler has made a stratospheric start to his career, both with Afghanistan and with his IPL franchise, Sunrisers Hyderabad.

He has already taken 53 ODI wickets from his 26 appearances, and needs just four more to overtake Hamid Hassan’s 56 and move into third place in Afghanistan’s wicket takers list.

Keiran Powell (West Indies)

West Indies have selected a very inexperienced squad for this series, and remarkably with 883 runs to his name, Nevis-born opening batsman Powell is the leading ODI run scorer within it.

He’ll be looking for 117 more to bring up his 1000.

 

West Indies v Afghanistan T20I Series Review

Although they were made to fight a little harder in the final game tonight, World Champions the West Indies duly claimed a 3-0 clean sweep against Afghanistan in the T20I series held at Warner Park Oval in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis.

From an individual player point of view, there were a couple of career milestones of note to come out of the series, both of which we foreshadowed in our series preview.

Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan)

As expected, all-rounder Nabi played in all three games, bringing his personal tally to 58 games played in the shortest format, and making himself Afghanistan’s joint highest appearance maker of all time, alongside absent wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad.

Samuel Badree (West Indies)

Spinner Badree picked up a solitary wicket in each game, taking his career T20I total to 50, and now sits just two wickets behind the West Indies’ leading wicket-taker in the format, Dwayne Bravo.

West Indies v Afghanistan – June 2017 bilateral T20I series

The West Indies host Afghanistan for a three game bilateral T20I series, starting on 2nd June, with all three games to be played at the Warner Park ground in Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts and Nevis.

With the Champions Trophy under way in the UK, the series will fall well below the radar for many outside of the Caribbean or Afghanistan, but it is no less important to the two competing teams.

The Windies are the reigning World T20I champions, and smarting from their failure to qualify for the big show going on in England and Wales, will be very keen to demonstrate their dominance in the shortest form of the game.

Leading Associate nation Afghanistan on the other hand will relish a rare bilateral series against a full ICC member, and although they will start as underdogs, have shown they are no mugs competing at the top level, and won their only warm up game against a strong West Indies Cricket Board XI earlier in the week.

Keep an eye on the following:

Afghanistan

Mohammed Nabi

With current leading appearance maker, keeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad, out of the squad for this series, all-rounder Nabi has a chance to move joint equal with Shahzad at the top of the appearance table for his country – having made 55 T20I starts compared to his compatriot’s 58.

Ashgar Stanikzai and Samiullah Shenwari

Shahzad is currently the only Afghanistan batsman to score 1000 T20I runs for his country. Captain Stanikzai and all-rounder Shenwari stand an outside chance of joining him with 842 and 841 runs to their name respectively.

Shahzad is also the only Afghani to make a T20I century, so if any of his teammates can clock one up in this series, they’ll move joint top of a very short list!

West Indies

Marlon Samuels

With top scorer and walking T20 God (in his own eyes at least) Chris Gayle not in the squad for this series, Samuels has an outside chance of overhauling him at the top of the Windies all-time T20I scoring list. Gayle currently has 1519 runs in the shortest format, so Marlon would need a whopping 243 to topple him, but stranger things have happened.

Lendl Simmons

Simmons needs 131 runs to reach 1000 international runs in the T20I format.

Samuel Badree

The Twenty20 specialist spinner currently has 47 wickets in the format, and sits in second place in the all-time T20 wicket-takers list for his country. He needs three more scalps to reach 50, and a further three to overtake Dwayne Bravo (52) as the Windies’ top bowler.

Sunil Narine

Not far behind Badree though is Narine, with 44 wickets in his column – enough for joint third place with Darren Sammy. He’ll be looking to take third place outright and put pressure on Badree and Bravo above him.

Evin Lewis

The young Trinidadian is one of only two West Indians to score a T20I century. The aforementioned Gayle is the other, and he has two. If Lewis can notch up a century not only will he draw level with the “Universe Boss”, but he’ll become only the third batsman worldwide to score two in the short format.